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Rahm Emanuel Budget Address 2014: Chicago Mayor Wants Higher Fees On Cable, Cigarettes, Parking

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday presented his 2014 city budget, a proposal that relies on lofty revenue projections from the newly-installed speed cameras and proposed hikes to a number of taxes and fines to chip away at the city's $338.7 million deficit.

As previously reported, the $6.97 billion budget holds the line on certain big-ticket taxes -- including property, sales and gasoline taxes -- but increases a number of other revenue-generators:

  • $120 million in fines from the city's red-light and speed cameras
  • About $10 million in new revenue from increasing the city's cigarette tax by 75 cents per pack, making Chicago home to the most-taxed cigarettes in the nation
  • About $10 million in added revenue from increasing several parking and towing fines
  • $9 million in revenue from upping the amusement tax rate on cable TV services from 4 percent to 6 percent
  • $4 million in revenue from higher fees for zoning applications filed in person instead of online

Another $100 million in improved revenues from hotel, sales and real estate transfer taxes are also being counted on to help balance the budget. According to ABC Chicago, the mayor's office plans to make up the rest of the city's budget shortfall through "improved fiscal management" though it is as yet unclear what exactly that is referring to.

The impact of the state's massively underfunded pension system on the city's bottom line was not a factor in the newly unveiled budget, but Emanuel did warn that if the state legislature does not pass a pension reform bill soon, the city's 2015 budget "will either double city property taxes or eliminate vital services that people rely on" as a result of looming pension liabilities, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Emanuel also took the budget address as an opportunity to restate his push for tougher gun sentencing and urged the state legislature to move to increase the state's minimum sentence for those convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon to three years:

In the days ahead of Emanuel's budget address, several aldermen expressed concerns at the bevy of hiked taxes and fees and members of the City Council Progressive Caucus reiterated that concern in a joint statement released Wednesday:

"This budget treads over the same ground as past budgets by calling for an increase in fee and fines. This puts the weight squarely on the backs of those that have carried us through the recession. They have been steady as services lagged and their quality of life suffered. But this budget continues to ask more of them."

The caucus is calling for the hiring of 1,000 police officers, an audit of the city's TIF (tax-increment funding) revenue, a restoration of funding to reopen the six mental health clinics the city closed in 2012 and for the city to "create more equitable sources of revenue that ensure that corporate citizens contribute their fair share to the tax base."

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